ZURICH (Reuters) - Former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter said on Thursday he had sought to defuse unrest in Burundi last year by offering President Pierre Nkurunziza an ambassadorial role with the soccer body if he dropped controversial plans to run for a third term.
Blatter, banned from soccer for six years for ethics violations amid the worst graft scandal in FIFA’s history, said he had been asked by the Swiss foreign ministry to approach Nkurunziza over his decision to run for another term, which opponents said violated the African country’s constitution.
“One day, there was a phone call from Burundi,” Blatter, 17 years head of FIFA, said at the launch of an authorized biography “Sepp Blatter, mission and passion football”.
“I spoke with the Burundi president, I told him he would have the international recognition of FIFA, that he would be an extraordinary ambassador for us,” the 80-year-old Swiss added.
“He said, in French, ‘I am very touched, I want to look at that and speak with my people’....but the mission failed.”
The Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement there had been contact between Blatter and State Secretary Yves Rossier, but denied the ministry had asked Nkurunziza not to run for another term. The intention was to “contribute to a peaceful solution in order to prevent the current crisis in Burundi”.
Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term in July in an election boycotted by the opposition. More than 400 people have been killed in the unrest and tit-for-tat killings continue.
Blatter is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors over a 2.0 million Swiss franc payment made by FIFA to former European boss Michel Platini, who has also been banned for six years.
“I think one day we will have some evidence as to why all this happened and why the Swiss authorities were so determined to go against FIFA and Blatter,” he said.
Dozens of officials, including former members of FIFA’s executive committee, have been indicted in the United States while a criminal investigation is also underway in Switzerland.,
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ralph Boulton